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Female Entrepreneur: Hema Balakrishan | Founder, Color D Earth

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Hema BalakrishnanI am a social entrepreneur and founder of Color D Earth, an Eco Socio Enterprise. Born out of a passion to create one-of-a-kind-jewellery with river bed clay from Mother Earth, Color D Earth works towards the sustainable and economic growth of the terracotta artisan community. Color D Earth empowers nearly 200 terracotta artisans around the country by giving them the true value for their art so that they earn a fair wage and get a steady income.

I did a B.A in Psychology, Sociology and Public Administration followed by a Post-Graduation in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations. I wanted to make a career in HR, so worked with a renowned Management Consultant for a couple of years.

After I got married, my in laws didn’t want me to work, so I reluctantly stayed at home. I kept myself busy by doing several short courses, one of them was in clay modelling with my kids in 2003, which changed my life forever. Initially there was some support, but when I wanted to move out of the home-based business model, there was resistance. Throughout these 12 years, my children have been my pillar of strength for they never once complained. They became independent at a young age, while helping me whenever I needed their help. Today, we have established ourselves as a brand with a cause and receive a lot of support from our dear customers, friends and family. It’s been indeed a journey of interesting challenges!

Hema2At color D Earth, we empower 11 terracotta artisan groups from six states in India who handcraft exquisite and earthy terracotta jewellery. These artisans come from diverse geographies and cultural backgrounds. Themes and styles of clay work vary widely from each state. Much like a painter or a sculptor, each artist’s involvement with their work is complete and each piece is characterised by the artist’s own inimitable creativity.

We currently retail our unique art jewellery at Color D Earth – The Terracotta Studio in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Our forte lies in customising designer jewellery in terracotta for their eclectic clientele. Color D Earth launched their online store, www.colordearth.com, the first social ecommerce store to sell only terracotta jewellery in 2013 to promote the work of their artisans. Color D Earth was featured in the 2nd season of Style and the City on the Fox Life Channel and ET Cases, an initiative of Economic Times.

What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?

There have been several financial, labour, operations strategy and marketing related challenges in the last 12 years. Each challenge has been a stepping stone and the beginning of a new chapter. I believe, if the focus is on the solution and positive steps are taken to find it, then there can only be success.

Hema5What has been your greatest achievement personally?

Being selected for the 10000 Women Program by ISB, Hyderabad in 2009 was the key trigger for many good things to happen to us!

Besides, Color D Earth has really brought some beautiful opportunities my way and I am humbled to share them with the readers here:

  • I was an investee at UnLtd Hyderabad, an organisation that finds, funds and supports Social Entrepreneurs.
  • I was also invited as a panellist at the TEDX women Hyderabad event in June 2015.
  • In March 2012, I was chosen by the U.S Department of State to attend the prestigious, International Visitors Leadership Program on Women and Entrepreneurship in the U.S.
  • Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of 111 ASEAN students by CII on an exchange program to India on Social Entrepreneurship in India and my journey at the Marriott Hotel. Working with a diverse group of students from Indonesia, Brunei, Lao, Cambodia and Malaysia for few hours to find solutions for our societies was one of the most satisfying experiences I have had.
Hema3
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?

I would probably be teaching Effective Communication at colleges because that’s the one skill we are lacking!

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

As I see it, working with a social initiative requires a special kind of patience. For that my mom is my inspiration. She was the epitome of patience! There are so many social change makers who inspire me – from Vandana Shiva to Anshu Gupta of Goonj, to many of the unsung heroes who silently affect so many lives in a magical way!

What does the future hold for you?

I am aiming to bring 500 artisans under the umbrella of Color D Earth by the end of 2016! We aim to be an internationally renowned social enterprise for its best trade practices

Online Store: www.colordearth.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/terracotta.color.d.earth

This article was provided by WeAreTheCity Hyderabad Committee Lead, Anju Arora.

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